ARCHIVED - Allegations Against the Canadian Forces - Introduction

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Background to complaint

On July 9, 1996, Captain Poulin submitted a memorandum about a matter he believed he was duty-bound to report. The allegations contained in his memorandum were serious and warranted swift action. The matter was not properly handled. Effectively, nothing was done. The failure to respond promptly and effectively to these complaints set off a chain of events that led to the filing of further complaints with various persons and dispute settlement regimes within the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF). Some of these complaints have merit, others do not. But one thing is clear: if the initial complaints had received prompt and fair attention, Captain Poulin would not have embarked on what has proven to be a five-year period of frustration and anxiety for those involved - most of all, for him and his family. If the initial complaints had been dealt with promptly and fairly, Captain Poulin would not have developed such a deep distrust and suspicion of elements of DND and the CF that he perceived many actions or inactions to be wrongful, even when they were not. Captain Poulin's experience irrevocably damaged his chosen career and the quality of his experience as a member of the CF. It undermined his morale and, ultimately, the way others perceive him. As Captain Poulin puts it,  “The damage to my career, to my professional reputation and status is now irreversible.”   This should not have happened and his experience underlies the importance of truly respecting the rights of CF members to voice concerns and seek remedies when they perceive injustices or problems. Only when complaints are taken seriously will real problems be discovered and rectified and misperceptions corrected.

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Referral of complaint to the Ombudsman's Office

On July 12, 1999, the Chief of Review Services Major-General Penney met with the Senior Policy Advisor of the Ombudsman's Office to explore the feasibility of this Office conducting an investigation into allegations brought forward by Captain Bruce Poulin. Captain Poulin is a CF member currently serving on staff within the Director General Public Affairs (DGPA), known as Public Affairs, at National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ). Captain Poulin alleges he has been the target of reprisal and retaliation by numerous authorities of DND and the CF ever since a memorandum he wrote, which contained allegations of inappropriate behaviour on the part of Colonel Serge Labbé, became public during a press conference on June 17, 1998. The press conference was presided over by Lieutenant-General William Leach, who was the Chief of the Land Staff in 1998. The memorandum, dated July 9, 1996, had been addressed to Lieutenant-General Leach who at that time was the Deputy Commander of Land Forces and held the rank of Major-General. Then Major-General Leach, as the intended recipient of the memo, is alleged to have failed to take appropriate action in response to the memo.

In 1996, Captain Poulin was a student at the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College (CLFCSC), then commanded by Colonel Labbé. Later in 1996, Captain Poulin was a speechwriter for the former Commander of Land Forces, General Maurice Baril, who at that time held the rank of Lieutenant-General - General Baril is currently the Chief of the Defence Staff. In June 1998, Captain Poulin was a public affairs officer employed with the Media Liaison Office at NDHQ.

The referral of his complaint to this Office by the Chief of Review Services followed several attempts to bring closure to various aspects of this matter through internal DND and CF mechanisms. These mechanisms included investigations by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS), complaints to the Deputy Provost Marshal Professional Standards, proposed mediation through the DND Executive Director of Conflict Management, applications for redress of grievance and finally a proposal for an administrative review to be conducted by a private contractor on behalf of the Chief of Review Services.

The internal responses to these complaints resulted in further allegations against DND and CF authorities, including Captain Poulin's immediate supervisors and managers and those employed to deal with such complaints.

The Chief of Review Services requested that Captain Poulin participate in an investigation headed by an investigator contracted by his office. Captain Poulin maintained that an individual with an existing contractual relationship with DND lacked the necessary independence to render unbiased findings. In response to Captain Poulin's insistence that a completely independent outside body investigate his complaints, the Chief of Review Services approached this Office to ask whether it would accept the case for investigation.

The Ombudsman's Office accepted the case for investigation subject to Captain Poulin's agreement and the agreement by both the Chief of Review Services and Captain Poulin that any further internal investigation of the original and all related complaints be suspended until completion of the investigation by this Office. Captain Poulin faxed this Office on July 21, 1999 to indicate his agreement. In a memorandum to the Chief of Review Services dated July 22, 1999, he further stated that he believed this Office possessed the  “required independence and objectivity to examine [his] allegations in an effective way.”  

Finally, it is not the role of the Ombudsman to conduct criminal investigations or recommend the laying of charges. Rather, the Ombudsman's role is to review matters to provide an assessment as to whether the complainant was treated in a fair and equitable manner. In the original memorandum of June 9, 1996, misconduct allegations are made against Colonel Labbé. It is important to clearly state at the outset that it is not the Ombudsman's function to make any findings on the accuracy of those allegations or to determine whether Colonel Labbé had in fact committed any of the acts he is alleged to have committed. This report has therefore refrained from doing so. However, since the allegations against Colonel Labbé are the subject of the initial complaint by Captain Poulin, they are described to give context to the narrative, so that the nature and seriousness of the complaints, as well as the ensuing events, are understood.

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Summary of complaint

Captain Poulin was a student at the CLFCSC College in Kingston, Ontario from January 29 to June 14, 1996. The Commandant of the college was Colonel Serge Labbé.

Upon the conclusion of the course, Captain Poulin returned to his position as a speechwriter for the Commander of Land Forces at army headquarters then in St. Hubert, Québec. After returning to the army headquarters, Captain Poulin submitted a memorandum to then Major-General Leach, the Deputy Commander of Land Forces. Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 9, 1996 made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Colonel Labbé.

In his memorandum, Captain Poulin claims to have witnessed Colonel Labbé rubbing the back of a civilian member of the mess dining room staff. Captain Poulin claims he later spoke to this woman, who related that Colonel Labbé had made previous advances toward her. Captain Poulin discussed this information with some of his fellow students who, Captain Poulin contends, provided anecdotes from the mid-1980s alleging that, as battalion commander, Colonel Labbé arranged for transportation to take uniformed officers under his command to a local exotic dancing establishment. Captain Poulin included this information in his memorandum. Lastly, Captain Poulin alleges to have witnessed fellow students drinking alcohol in the presence of Colonel Labbé aboard a CF passenger bus and while waiting in the passenger terminal at CF Base Trenton.

Captain Poulin also submitted a second memorandum, dated July 15, 1996, outlining to Major-General Leach his criticisms of the CLFCSC. In his complaint to the Ombudsman's Office, Captain Poulin states that Lieutenant-General Leach failed to take appropriate action and order an investigation into these concerns.

On June 17, 1998 a press conference took place chaired by the Chief of the Land Staff, Lieutenant-General Leach. During the press conference, retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, then a media representative, asked Lieutenant-General Leach to comment on a memorandum that he and Scott Taylor of Esprit de Corps magazine had circulated amongst members of the media during the press conference. Lieutenant-General Leach was the intended recipient of the memorandum, authored by Captain Bruce Poulin and dated July 9, 1996, that contained allegations of inappropriate behaviour on the part of Colonel Serge Labbé. At that time, Lieutenant-General Leach was the Deputy Commander of Land Forces and held the rank of Major-General.

As a result of events at the press conference of June 17, 1998, a military police investigation was ordered to examine the allegations against Colonel Labbé and a second investigation was ordered to examine whether charges were warranted against Lieutenant-General Leach for failing to take action in response to the memorandum. These investigations were conducted by military police investigators from the CFNIS, Central Region.

The CFNIS investigations concluded that the allegations of misconduct against Colonel Labbé could not be substantiated. Further, the CFNIS held that there was insufficient evidence to form the basis of any charges against Lieutenant-General Leach for having seen the memorandum and failed to take action. It did, however, recommend that the chain of command review the issue of Lieutenant-General Leach's lack of response to the memorandum from an administrative perspective. The complaint Captain Poulin submitted to the Ombudsman's Office further objects to the adequacy of the investigations by the CFNIS and the fact that General Maurice Baril, the Chief of the Defence Staff, did not conduct the recommended administrative review or employ appropriate corrective measures.

At the conclusion of the CFNIS investigations, a number of CF authorities provided statements to the media detailing the conclusions. It is further alleged that both the former Head of Public Affairs for Land Forces and a former spokesperson for the CFNIS made false statements to the media concerning the initiation of the investigations and the findings, respectively.

Following the conclusion of the investigations, on November 18, 1998 Captain Poulin submitted four military police complaints against the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) and three of the CFNIS investigators that had investigated the allegations against Colonel Labbé and Lieutenant-General Leach. On November 30, 1998, Captain Poulin submitted a fifth military police complaint against the Deputy Provost Marshal Professional Standards and the CFPM. These complaints were ultimately dismissed by the relevant authorities as  “vexatious.” Captain Poulin has requested that the Ombudsman's Office review the handling of these complaints as part of its investigation into this matter.

Captain Poulin indicates that, since the time his July 9, 1996 memorandum was made public in June of 1998, he became the subject of repeated incidents of harassment in the workplace. He views these incidents as retaliation and reprisal for his role as author of the memorandum and his subsequent statements to members of the media about his experiences. Captain Poulin also details his concerns and experiences, including his allegations of retaliation and reprisal, in a speech he drafted and submitted in response to a call for submissions for the CF Defence Ethics Conference in October 1998. He also alleges that information related to his involvement in an accident was deliberately leaked to members of the media in order to discredit him.

The persons Captain Poulin views as responsible for the retaliation and reprisal, and for not properly dealing with his complaints internally, comprise 8 of the 24 subjects of the written complaint that Captain Poulin provided to this Office at the commencement of its investigation. This portion of the complaint includes allegations of harassment and abuse of authority against: Lieutenant-Commander D. LaViolette (Captain Poulin's former supervisor and former head of the Media Liaison Office), Colonel (Retired) R. Coleman (former Acting Director General Public Affairs), Captain (Navy) B. Frewer (senior-ranking military public affairs officer), Captain J. Morissette (second-in-command of the Media Liaison Office) and Captain (Retired) A. Pope (Captain Poulin's colleague in the DGPA). Captain Poulin also alleges that his activities and interactions with members of the media were intensely monitored and reported to his chain of command after the July 9, 1996 memorandum was made public. He indicates that, during this time, then Lieutenant E. King prepared Media Response Lines relating to the contents of the July 9, 1996 memorandum that were misleading and inaccurate and refused to amend the lines when so advised by Captain Poulin. Captain Poulin also states that his unit harassment advisor, Ms. Maureen Bruyere, failed to provide him with any support or assistance.

Captain Poulin's complaint further alleges that Major Mackie, Captain Poulin's subsequent supervisor upon his posting from the Media Liaison Office, unfairly caused Captain Poulin to be removed from his staff. Captain Poulin alleges that Major Mackie's actions were in response to a redress of grievance submitted by Captain Poulin objecting to a performance evaluation Major Mackie had submitted on Captain Poulin.

Captain Poulin indicates that, as a result of the treatment he was experiencing, he requested to be moved from the Media Liaison Office in October 1998. Captain Poulin was subsequently posted to the Public Affairs Y2K project under the command of Major Mackie. In March 1999, Captain Poulin was removed from the Y2K Public Affairs section and tasked to the section responsible for daily media briefings in Kosovo. Captain Poulin indicates in his complaint that this move was orchestrated by Major Mackie in retaliation for the redress of grievance Captain Poulin submitted in objection to his performance evaluation.

The speech Captain Poulin sought to present at the October 1998 Defence Ethics Conference did not refer to all of the individuals included in the written complaint that he submitted to this Office. While Captain Poulin's speaking notes did not name any of the individuals alleged to have subjected him to unfair treatment, the CF leaders responsible for the conference felt that the considerable media coverage surrounding the memo, along with the accessibility of organizational information identifying members employed within the DGPA, would likely make these individuals easily identifiable.

Ultimately, the Director of the CF Ethics Program and his immediate superior, the Chief of Review Services, decided it would be inappropriate to allow Captain Poulin to present his speech at the conference. They reasoned that the conference could not serve as a platform to make allegations against individuals. However, the Chief of Review Services, Major-General Penney, maintained that the allegations contained in Captain Poulin's speaking notes warranted investigation. Consequently, Major-General Penney initiated an undertaking with an external investigator to examine Captain Poulin's allegations. The investigator, Mr. Maurice Cantin, had recently been contracted to conduct an unrelated harassment investigation by Special Examinations and Inquiries, a section within the office of the Chief of Review Services.

Captain Poulin maintains that both Colonel Maillet, the Director of the CF Ethics Program and Major-General Penney, the Chief of Review Services, unfairly prevented him from giving his speech at the conference and, further, that Colonel Maillet provided false information to the media regarding the reasons Captain Poulin was not included as a speaker at the conference. Captain Poulin also states that Major Miville Deschênes, who was a senior analyst with the Chief of Review Services, provided false information to Captain Poulin regarding the intention to proceed with an investigation of the allegations contained in his draft speech, despite his reluctance to participate.

Despite considerable dialogue between Captain Poulin and Major-General Penney, Captain Poulin maintained that he could not agree to participate in the investigation if it was to be conducted by an investigator contracted by the Chief of Review Services. Captain Poulin felt the contractual relationship between DND and Mr. Cantin compromised the level of independence required to produce objective and unbiased findings. Despite repeated efforts urging he participate in the investigation, Captain Poulin did not acquiesce and the Chief of Review Services initiated discussions to explore whether the Ombudsman's Office would investigate Captain Poulin's complaint.

In his complaint to this Office, Captain Poulin claims that Major-General Penney attempted to block his attempts to resolve his complaints of harassment and reprisal. He also alleges that Major-General Penney acted improperly in recommending an application for redress of grievance to resolve his complaints, suggesting that Major-General Penney knew the head of the CF Grievance Administration, Lieutenant-Colonel Pellicano, was married to the secretary of the Director General Public Affairs. In addition to this perceived conflict of interest, Captain Poulin also suggests that Lieutenant-Colonel Pellicano would be potentially biased because he was junior in rank to individuals named as subjects of Captain Poulin' s complaints.

To support the complaint submitted to this Office, Captain Poulin furnished many volumes of documents obtained through numerous Privacy and Access to Information requests. In one package of documents released under the Privacy Act, Captain Poulin obtained a letter that Lieutenant-Colonel A. F. Robertson, a former staff member at the CLFCS, had written to Colonel Labbé. The document pledged support for Colonel Labbé while employing rather harsh and unflattering language to describe Captain Poulin and attributed a disreputable motive for Captain Poulin's allegations. When Captain Poulin became aware of this correspondence, he sought legal representation at Crown expense in order to pursue legal action. Captain Poulin was told this matter did not meet the criteria for publicly funded legal representation. As an alternative, Captain Poulin was referred to the Executive Director of Conflict Management.

Captain Poulin subsequently sought to consolidate this mediation with an attempt to mediate his complaints against his chain of command and the CFPM. Consequently, a referral was made to the office of the Chief of the Defence Staff to solicit General Baril's participation in mediation with Captain Poulin. This referral was received by the former Executive Assistant to the Chief of the Defence Staff, Brigadier-General (then Colonel) Lise Mathieu. She concluded that it would be premature to include the Chief of the Defence Staff at that point in time and that attempts ought to be made at a first-line resolution, further down the chain of command. Consequently, mediation was not pursued to resolve any of Captain Poulin's complaints. Captain Poulin objects in his complaint to improper interference by Brigadier-General Mathieu and to the Chief of the Defence Staff's refusal to engage in mediation.

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Investigative process

Following preliminary meetings with members of the Ombudsman's staff on September 20, 1999, Captain Poulin had an initial meeting with the lead investigator assigned to this case. Captain Poulin's written complaint was presented as volumes two and three of four volumes. These volumes contained his allegations and substantiating documentation. At the request of the investigator, Captain Poulin provided copies of his hand-written diaries for the period 1996 through 1999. A second investigator was assigned to the case on October 11, 1999 and the Ombudsman's investigators interviewed Captain Poulin on audiotape on October 29, 1999.

Due to the broad scope of Captain Poulin's complaint, it was decided this investigation would be divided into two broad phases. The first phase examined his allegations of harassment and reprisal occurring after June 17, 1998. The second phase focused on a review of the CFNIS investigations into the allegations against Colonel Serge Labbé in Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 9, 1996 and the alleged inaction by Lieutenant-General William Leach.

The reason for investigating more recent events before earlier ones was two-fold. First, Captain Poulin's allegations of reprisal occurring after June 17, 1998 had not been previously investigated within any other forum. It was decided that this portion should be given precedence because information on events occurring after June 17, 1998 had not been collected during previous investigations. Secondly, the previous investigations by the CFNIS and the subsequent complaints against its investigators and the CFPM required a high volume of material to be compiled for examination. This material comprised documents, notes and reports, plus the audio and video recordings of the CFNIS interviews.

The complaint submitted by Captain Poulin contains 95 allegations against 24 individuals, including serving CF members, retired CF personnel and one civilian employee of DND. These individuals represent Captain Poulin's former and current peers and superiors within the chain of command and members of the Military Police who investigated the initial allegations against Colonel Labbé and Lieutenant-General Leach.

I have addressed the allegations against each individual, provided an assessment of my findings and made recommendations where appropriate. In some cases, allegations are dealt with together; for instance, where they are similar in nature or where the same allegation pertains to a number of individuals.

Where relevant, the exact text of the allegation as articulated by Captain Poulin in his written complaint to my office has been used. In some instances, allegations refer to potential breaches of sections of the Queen's Regulations and Orders (QR&O) or the National Defence Act. Although these allegations have been referred to for the purpose of clarity and thoroughness, it should be made clear that, in keeping with the function performed by the Ombudsman's Office, this investigation was not conducted with a view to determining whether sufficient evidence existed to warrant charges under any act or regulation. The review focused specifically on whether the complainant in the matter, Captain Poulin, was treated fairly and equitably.

During this investigation, 100 interviews of 85 individuals were conducted. Interviews were audiotaped with the consent of the persons interviewed. The recorded interviews were transcribed into more than 2,300 pages of transcripts. Prior to interviewing an individual that is a subject of Captain Poulin's complaint, Ombudsman's investigators provided the relevant allegations to the individual and addressed any concerns raised about the mandate of this Office and the confidentiality of the information provided. In at least one instance, an individual who was on deployment declined to have copies of the allegations sent to him while he was on operation. In order to accommodate him, the interview was conducted on his return to Canada, after he had an opportunity to review related notes and files. In other instances, where the individual was posted abroad, investigators travelled to conduct the interview on location.

I would like, at the outset, to make a few comments relating to the investigative process and the cooperation I received from members of the CF and DND. During the course of the investigation, Ombudsman's investigators encountered some misperceptions that the role of this Office was one of advocacy for the complainant. They assured all individuals that, as investigators of this Office, they were independent and neutral in the investigative process and were not predisposed to findings in favour either of the complainant or of any authority of the CF and DND.

While the investigators reported an excellent degree of cooperation from almost all current and former personnel of the CF and DND, several individuals, including both subjects and witnesses, expressed considerable concern about the accessibility of interview information through Privacy and Access to Information mechanisms. While aware of their responsibilities under the Defence Administrative Orders and Directives 5047-1 regarding the provision of information to representatives of the Ombudsman's Office, some individuals complied with considerable apprehension. Their reluctance was attributable to their expectation that any information provided might subject them to future complaints or unwelcome media attention.

The time required to fully examine Captain Poulin's complaint far exceeded our normal 60-day target for completion. The active investigation portion of this complaint alone exceeded 14 months, attributable to our effort to be thorough and objective in examining this large, multi-faceted complaint against so many individuals, many of whom have been relocated to positions elsewhere in Canada and abroad.

Understandably, some individuals have expressed concern about the time this Office has taken to investigate this complaint. Some subjects have suggested that, because this investigation is administrative in nature, and does not pertain to laying charges, it ought to have been conducted in a much shorter timeframe. I disagree. In light of the seriousness of the allegations brought forward, it was imperative that quality and thoroughness not be sacrificed to expediency. At the same time, I am sensitive to the stresses that a lengthy investigation imposes upon the complainant, subjects of the complaints and their families.

Upon completion of this Office's investigation, an interim report was prepared containing preliminary findings and recommendations. The subjects of this complaint, as well as the complainant were notified on February 12, 2001 that the investigation was complete and that copies of the relevant portions of my interim report would be provided for their comments as a matter of procedural fairness. On March 5, 2001, copies of the interim report were provided to Captain Poulin and the Chief of the Defence Staff. Each of the subjects of Captain Poulin's complaint received a copy of the sections of the report dealing with the allegations against them. After further consideration, a copy of the report was also provided to the CFPM for a response to the portions relating to the CFNIS.

All parties were requested to provide their responses to the interim report in writing to this Office by March 19; however, in a few instances extensions were accorded due to operational requirements. Captain Poulin was afforded a reciprocal extension. All responses were received by March 28, 2001 and were carefully reviewed. Some clarifications have been made and additional information added to the final report where appropriate. All of the written responses received can be found in their entirety in the Appendices of this final report.

Captain Poulin submitted his written response to the interim report on March 28, 2001. As for other responses, his response was carefully reviewed and clarifications were made to the final report where appropriate. At this Office's request, Captain Poulin also submitted an impact statement detailing the toll these events have taken on him professionally and personally, as well as on his family.

The Chief of the Defence Staff has accepted some of the recommendations contained in the interim report and has taken some actions in response. He has accepted other recommendations with specific undertakings to ensure their implementation. His response to the interim recommendations, as well as other responses, are detailed in this final report. Some recommendations have been amended as a result of these responses.

The acceptance of these findings and recommendations has depended, in part, on the goodwill and open-mindedness of both the complainant and the senior leadership of DND and the CF and on their desire to achieve closure. I am hopeful this report has the necessary components to bring this lengthy matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

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